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Full text of "My Country And My People"

THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               49

had illicit relations with his maid. When he learned at a
public feast that his wife had sent the maid away, he immedi-
ately borrowed a horse from a friend and galloped off after
the maid until he overtook her and carried her back on horse-
back in the presence of all the guests. These were the people
who became admired for their cleverness. People admired
them as a small tortoise admires the thick shell of a big tor-
toise.

Here we seem to have laid our finger on the fatal disease
of the body politic, and to see the origin of that indifference
which explains the proverbial inability of the Chinese people
to organize themselves. It would seem that the curing of the
disease is simple, by having constitutional protection for the
people's civil rights. Yet no one has seen the far-reaching
consequences of this. No one desires it. No one sincerely
wants it.

IV. OLD ROGUERY

Perhaps the most striking quality of the Chinese people is
what, for want of a better term, must be termed its "old
roguery." It is the most difficult characteristic to explain to a
Westerner, and yet at the same time it is most profound, in
that it goes back directly to a different philosophy of life.
Compared with this view of life, the whole fabric of Western
civilization seems extremely raw and immature. When a
young man tries to drag his old grandfather from his fireside for
a sea bath on a September morning and fails to do so, the young
man will perhaps show angered astonishment, while the old
man will merely show a smile of amusement. That smile is
the smile of the old rogue, and it is difficult to say which one
is right. All this bustle and restlessness of the spirit of the young
man—where will it all lead to? And all this enthusiasm and
self-assertion and struggle and war and hot-headed nationalism
—where will it all end, and what is it all for? Perhaps it will
be futile to find an answer to the question, and equally futile
to force one party to accept the view of the other, since it is all
a matter of age.